Adjournment Debate. - Traffic Regulations.

I thank the Minister of State for attending the House for this debate. The long-running problem of the parking of heavy goods vehicles has been a source of much annoyance and anger for residents and residents' association for many years. Trucks parked in residential areas are unsightly, cause traffic hazards, attract anti-social activity and provide cover for muggings, including handbag snatching. This issue has been a matter of grave concern to Dublin City councillors in particular because, while this is not solely an urban issue, it primarily affects the Dublin city area.

After much toing and froing over recent years between the four Dublin local authorities, councillors were told the delay in implementing a ban on parking heavy goods vehicles was as a result of problems the Garda had encountered. We waited and posed several questions to the Minister, but several Adjournment debates later we still find ourselves no nearer to resolving the problem.

We thought a solution had been found last October when new regulations came into force from the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Under Article 38 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997, provision is made for prohibiting the parking of large vehicles in areas where the relevant traffic signs and information plates are erected. Under the regulations, the signs and information plates must be erected at the entrance to these areas and a further sign and plate must be erected indicating where the prohibition ends. If the ban is widely implemented it will mean we will have a proliferation of signs and plates all over the city.

At present, many residents' associations are seeking such a ban in their areas. Under the 1997 regulations the legal advice available to Dublin Corporation is that it must erect a very ugly three foot high sign — which costs approximately £3,000 to produce — at the start and end of whatever area wants the ban. That can mean an entire housing estate or individual roads. I am sure the Minister will agree it would be totally unacceptable and ludicrous if practically every residential street in the Dublin city area was to have one of these big signs at the start and end of it. Clearly, this is not possible. We cannot continue in this way, yet Dublin Corporation's legal advice is that the only way we can impose a ban is by erecting these signs under the 1997 regulations.

I appeal to the Minister of State to amend those regulations as a matter of urgency in order to allow Dublin Corporation to impose a blanket ban on the entire city, which is what residents want. Both the public and councillors of all parties on the corporation want to be able to impose a blanket ban on the parking of heavy goods vehicles in all residential areas. Certain designated areas could then be exempted for parking, such as industrial estates where such parking would not cause a problem.

This is a long-running issue and has been a source of much annoyance. It is exasperating for public representatives to try to explain why they cannot simply introduce a blanket ban on the parking of heavy goods vehicles in residential areas. I do not understand why we cannot do it because smoky fuel was banned with the stroke of a pen and this environmental problem is just as serious. It is also a security problem because of the many anti-social problems associated with areas where heavy goods vehicles are parked. I appeal to the Minister of State to urgently amend the regulations to allow Dublin Corporation to introduced such a blanket ban.

I thank Deputy Shortall for raising this issue. The role of local authorities in relation to the management of traffic and parking in their functional areas was greatly enhanced under the Road Traffic Act, 1994. The Act provides a modern framework for the application of the laws relating to traffic and parking and gives full discretion to local authorities, subject only to consultation with the Garda, to put in place traffic management measures which they consider appropriate. In addition, the Act granted local authorities maximum flexibility in relation to the provision of traffic calming measures and speed limits.

The Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations, 1997, which were made under section 35 of the Act and came into operation on 1 October 1997, provided for the first time a single comprehensive and streamlined set of rules governing traffic and parking. Decisions in relation to the application of the controls set out in those regulations are a matter for local authorities.

The regulations provide local authorities with a number of means of controlling parking in their areas to cover various circumstances. These include, for example, the provision of double yellow lines, single yellow lines, clearways, disabled persons parking bays, and prohibitions on parking a school entrances. All such parking controls are applied by the provision of appropriate signs and road markings.

The regulations also provided for the first time for the application of a restriction on parking large vehicles. This restriction is applied by the provision of appropriate traffic signs placed at the entrance to the road or area in respect of which it is to be applied. The regulations also provide for the use of signs to indicate the end of the restriction. A vehicle which exceeds the weight indicated on the sign may not park in the area except for the purpose of loading or unloading for a maximum period of 30 minutes. The determination of the areas and the extent of the application of the restriction are matters for the individual local authorities who are best placed to give full consideration to all of the issues which arise. This provision was included in the 1997 regulations following a considerable amount of representation to my Department and following consultation with the Garda and a number of local authorities, including Dublin and Cork Corporations.

The case is now apparently being made that it should be feasible for a local authority to place a blanket prohibition on parking heavy goods vehicles within its area without the need for a detailed assessment of the justification for this approach in relation to particular roads or neighbourhoods. This blanket approach could have serious economic and disruptive consequences for certain transport operators. I would wish to see it carefully justified and substantiated in the context of a review of other potential truck enforcement strategies, before contemplating a change in the present regulations.

My Department remains open to proposals for improving regulations generally. In fairness to all interests concerned, it is right that major changes should not be instigated without a thorough and transparent analysis of the issues involved. I assure the Deputy that I will review the position to see what changes might be implemented at an early date.